The great mangaka Katsuhiro Otomo is recognized around the world for his enormous influence on comic books and anime, a legacy cemented in his seminal work, AKIRA -- a 2,000-page opus that remains Otomo's only long-form manga. That is set to change, however, when Otomo begins work on what will be his first extended serial in more than 20 years. The as-yet-untitled project will be in the shonen arena (manga targeted at the young male market) and set in Japan's historic Meiji period between the late 1860s and 1912.The news comes courtesy of Japanese art magazine Geijutsu Shincho, which also features "DJ Teck no Morning Attack," a new eight-page color manga by Otomo and his first since 2006's "Kouen." Otomo also told the magazine that he's produced a new anime short called "Hi-no-Youjin" or "Combustible," which will screen at the Annecy festival in France this June.

Little is known about Otomo's new serial, just that it will be the author's first exercise in shonen and be set during Japan's Meiji period, around the mid 1800s to July 1912, when the nation transformed from an isolated feudal state into the Empire of Japan. Translation of the original interview is subject to inaccuracies, but it seems Otomo played coy with the release date and other details, saying that his new work will be serialized in "a certain shonen magazine."

In other Otomo news, the master recently released his latest art book, Kaba 2, a sequel to the original released all the way back in 1989. The book is only available as an import and features extremely high quality reproductions of all sorts of Otomo work, including AKIRA paintings and a colorized and Japanese language version of his contribution to the 1996 DC Comics anthology Batman: Black & White. I have seen the book and can assure you it is gorgeous. You can find Kaba 2 for around $150 at finer comics shops, art book stores and online.

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